With true summer upon us, and seasons wrapping up, the theater options start to dwindle severely in the Valley. This is the time when hard-core first-nighters have to search for some off-the-beaten-track stage action. Here are a few such options:
Once on This Island: Black Theatre Troupe closes out its 31st season with this 1990 Broadway musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, best known for Schoolhouse Rock Live!, Ragtime and Seussical the Musical. It retells the Little Mermaid legend in an Afro-Caribbean idiom. The show opens on Thursday, May 31, and continues through Sunday, June 17, in Stage West at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. For ticket information and details, call 602-258-8128.
SINGEfest: This "first, hopefully annual" new-play fest from the Unlikely Theatre Company features one-acts by local playwrights. It kicks off at 8 p.m. Friday, June 1, with a bill comprising Three Plays and a Desk, an examination of sex in the workplace by J. Boyer; The Chicken People by Melissa Hill, "a look at the life of foul people"; and Women's Department, an absurdist tour of the world of retail, if that's not a redundancy. This bill is repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 9. The second bill, slated for 8 p.m. Saturday, June 2, and Friday, June 8, consists of Matt Herman's "campy drama" The Drug Dealer's Woman and Michael Fenlason's "war-torn drama" Hyena. All performances take place at Mesa Arts Center, 155 North Center in Mesa. Tickets are $12, $10 for seniors and students. For details call 602-468-1534.
John T.: A prolific writer on Buddhism, yoga, theology and other matters spiritual, Lee Lozowick is the author of this original rock opera about the turbulent life of John the Baptist, performed by the Baul Theater Company. Stan Hitson is the composer. The single Valley performance is at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at Alwun House, 1204 East Roosevelt. Tickets are $12 and are available at the door. The show coincides with, and provides the entertainment for, the opening of "The Sacred and the Profane," a show of works in various media, ranging from paintings and sculpture to blown glass to stained glass, that explore the differences between the two states. The exhibition, which runs through Friday, June 29, features works by such artists as Kelsey Bogart, Bandhu Scott Dunham, Denise A. Lisenby, Ralph Pfleger, Shukyo Lin Rainey, Raul Razo, Anna Trudeau and Jeff Worob. For details call 602-253-7887.
Also, on a Biblical/rock note, Scottsdale's Desert Stages Theatre is extending its current Main Stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar through Saturday, June 23, although no performances are scheduled for Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2. Call 480-483-1664 for details and tickets. And yet another option is upcoming: Next week, The Shakespeare Theatre closes its season with a production of Shakespeare's wacky potboiler of gore Titus Andronicus. It's the Elizabethan equivalent of a summer movie.